Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Historic US microwave links and NY to Chicago in "34 Jumps"

Recently Jump Trading was in the news with their NATO tower story. It seemed to be well read with quite a few different brokers around the world mentioning it to me.

However, not many people really realise how old the news is. If you had of searched for a story with the words "Jump", "microwave", New York and Chicago, you may have come across this link as one of the first:

Click to expand. Source[1]: Originally September 1949 Long Lines Magazine
Yes, that's right. September 1949. A whole sixty five years ago next month. The second page of the article is below at [2].

A New York to Boston link went up in 1948 [3]. East joined West with the "Skyways" intercontinental link, with obligatory White House telephone call christening on August 17, 1951. It referred to operations at four billion vibrations a second[4], so presumably it was 4GHz microwave technology.

The network grew in size and here is the footprint of the US National "Broadband" network in 1960:

Click to expand. Source[5]: US 1960 Broadband Network
Microwave travels at around 3.3 microseconds per kilometre and light through optical fibre at around 5 microseconds per kilometre. AT&T's first "slower" long line fibre link went live in 1983 / 1984:

Click to enlarge: AT&T's first long fibre link
We have to be careful about books like "Flash Boys" that twist history into falsehoods to make catchy plot points. I guess we'll be hearing about new TransAtlantic high frequency trading stories soon, but remember that the first cable went across in 1858. There is a long, rich history of incredible stories in telecommunications that more people should be aware of.

Click to enlarge: Source [7]

I'll let you into a little known secret: that early transatlantic cable may have been 3 to 4 milliseconds faster than the current fastest fibres for signals crossing the ocean. At least for the three weeks of operations it had. Ask an engineer why that may have been the case...

Happy trading,



[1] Sourced from a cool site about the old long lines:

[2] The follow up page from [1]

Click to enlarge. Source
[3] From the Boston NYmicrowave link article from 1948:

[4] Nice pamphlet on the 1951 Skyways originally from

[5] Original 1960s map from long-lines:

[6] An earlier long-lines map via long lines from the Bell System Technical Journal, September 1952:

[7] Early Transatlantic Cable from from

[8] Here are a couple more maps from [7].